Bored with run of the mill classroom teaching, St. Xavier’s College, Digha Ghat in an attempt to make learning a fun filled experience, experimented teaching GES (General and Environmental Studies), a compulsory paper for BA (Hon) and B.Com (Hon) Part III students in an innovative way. Dr (Sr) Mudita RSCJ took up the challenge, by enthusing her 76 students with Michael Jackson’s songs, “Earth Song” and “Heal the World”. Students were asked to feel with him as they comprehended the lyrics in the audio-visual. Impacted by the emotions of Michael Jackson-a familiar youth fan, the students were intrinsically motivated and all ears to learn more about biodiversity, the biggest ecological problem faced by India today. UN has declared the decade 2011-2020 as the decade of biodiversity and India hosted the UN meeting Cop XI in Hyderabad in October 2012.

Biodiversity and its conservation, Hotspots and threats to biodiversity (Topic 3) of the prescribed syllabus was taught through a PowerPoint in an interactive manner, where students were excited to know more about the “Sheesham” trees that suddenly disappeared from Patna and the mango trees on the St Xavier’s College Campus that are suddenly dying. “Mono culture is the cause of species becoming extinct”, echoed Alokita, B.Com III and a Student Council Member. “I now know that the web of life is made stronger by biodiversity”, remarked student Shikander. Enthusiastic Niraj Kerkatta, BA (Hon) III exclaimed, “I looked up the net, to get more information about the Chipko Movement and how the women succeeded in saving the trees.” “Learning about India’s Biodiversity Hotspots and the Indian scenario-how India has diverse cultures, religions and traditions since time immemorial, and how this is reflected in the day-to-day lives of their people and is expressed in innumerable festivals, customs, rituals and practices is illuminating”, opined Priyanka. “Studying about Sanskritik Vans or Traditional Gardens where trees act like antennas and absorb cosmic energy which can be tapped by human beings, or the Nakshatra Vans where there is a separate tree for each of the 27 Constellations was just mind blowing”, said Isha. “I want to do further studies in Environment”, proclaimed Vishu. .

The cream on the cake of his exciting, out of the box learning methodology, saw the completion of the topic with a hands-on experience at the Tarumitra Biodiversity Centre, Digha Ghat this morning, where Fr Robert Athickal SJ (Founder and Director) taught the students how to identify different trees. Students will return to the college where they will do an assignment which read, “Select a rare tree on the campus (the rarer the better) love it and care for it. Find out its name-local, botanical, Hindi, English and Bhojpuri; its uses, medicinal value etc.” When asked, a beaming Sr Mudita commented, “I enjoyed teaching this topic. My students brought out the best in me. My hope is that 76 rare trees on the college campus will be labelled, one by each student in the class.” .